This isn’t so much of a review of the Honda Shadow Phantom 750 as much as this blogpost is paying homage to a highly underrated medium-sized v-twin cruiser. Just to give some quick specs: My 2013 Phantom weighs 547 pounds, generates 45 horsepower, 45 pounds of torque, and is capable of reaching 100 to 110 mph. On paper these are not impressive numbers, and if I was looking for a cruiser with more impressive numbers I would have bought a Yamaha Raider, a Suzuki M109 or even a V-Max. However, there are 2 reasons why I went with my Phantom.
First of all, I feel the need to let you know that back in the day when I lived in South Florida I used to pound the ground on a 98′ Harley Davidson Night Train, and way back in the 80’s I rode an 83′ Nighthawk 550, a 12 second bike in the quarter mile, which was very impressive back in the day. Since then I’ve ridden many different kinds of bikes over the decades I came to the conclusion a long time ago that I’m more attracted to character than speed and power.
Secondly, with that being said, particularly with some of the Harley guys that feel they need to tell me: “You need to get a real bike” here’s some knowledge to drop: My 1998 Harley Night Train weighed 668 pounds, generated 61 HP, 86 pounds of torque, and could achieve a top speed of 106 to, yes, 110 mph. Considering the Phantom is over 120 pounds lighter, is liquid cooled, has the tried, true and personally tested Honda bulletproof reliability, and is relatively maintenance free and you have a formidable competitor at a fraction of the price. For another perspective here’s Sean of the former SRK Cycles and creator of Bikes & Beards with his take on the Phantom:
Admittedly so, I got the bike because of its minimalist, classic Harley look without all the maintenance issues. Slap on a set of Vance & Hines Short Shots and Cobra ram air intake and you have a true cruiser with character, style and rumble that will fool the most diehard HOG member. Understand something–I’m not even remotely trying to convince you the reader that a Phantom is a suitable replacement for a Harley. Nevertheless, you know I had to go full tilt and remove the baffles from my pipes. And boy is there a nice rumble, particularly after they’ve warmed up as you can hear in the YouTube clip below. I shot this in a little town somewhere in the middle of nowhere in Oklahoma. What a wild experience. I got that true drifter vibe on a Pale Rider level poking around talking to the locals. A young man marveled as I filmed this and gave me his heartfelt speech on someday getting himself a motorcycle and blowing his popsicle stand. That’s the stuff that Americana is made of. Passing on the spirit of riding and being free.
The shortcomings of being a Phantom owner means there is no aftermarket support beyond exhaust pipes, a ram air intake and a fuel management controller, which by the way I never bothered to put on my bike. Don’t waste your time–I’ve looked across the country and around the world. There are no big bore kits, no cams, no nothing to enhance this bike’s performance. For a bike that has seen continuous production since 1983 albeit in a variety of forms and configurations I’m disappointed that the aftermarket world has nothing to offer such a popular, bulletproof motorcycle.
I did get a noticeable punch in the midrange. The Phantom pulls like a freight train when taking on hills, howling induction sound engaged, whereas before the Cobra air intake I had to downshift to pull a hill with confidence. There was a mild change to the top end where I even hit 115 mph a few times but afterwards the fuel injection kicked in, reverted back to its factory settings and said no more. No one on this planet can even come close to the aftermarket support for Harley Davidson, which is ultimately why I may return to the Harley world. One thing about Harley bikes; They may not set the world on fire right off the showroom floor (and that’s part of their marketing strategy) but the sky is the limit with what you can do mechanically and aesthetically.
Other than a noticeable drop in mpg’s the performance hasn’t suffered in the least. At 41,000 miles my bike starts, runs, and rides exactly the same way it did the day I road it off of the showroom floor. I have experienced zero issues–Not one drop of oil lost, the factory spark plugs I replaced 20,000 miles into my journey revealed zero wear. My bike hasn’t even so much as stuttered in the time I’ve owned it, and countless bikers can attest to the fact that I run my Phantom into the ground every time I throw my leg over the saddle.
Here’s the proof in the pudding–Let’s add to the fact that not only do I weigh 220 pounds I also strapped over 150 pounds of full-sized camping gear, not that tiny, cutting edge, metrosexual, micro camping gear and traveled from Birmingham, Al to Pensacola, Daytona, Miami, Key West, Florida. Gatlinburg and Deal’s Gap in Tennessee. Blue Ridge Parkway, Cherokee and Asheville in North Carolina. I’ve also traveled to Eureka Springs in Arkansas, Oklahoma City, Lake Meredith in the Texas Panhandle and all the way to Fort Sumner, New Mexico. The only thing I had to replace was the rear tire due to natural wear when I made a stop in Amarillo.
Throughout my entire trek on America’s interstates I comfortably cruised at an average of 90 mph easily keeping up with if not surpassing the flow of traffic, and all without downshifting. Any overzealous automobiles was dealt with by dropping a gear and pulling away. Did I fly past cars in the triple digits? No. Did my bike handle every traffic situation with power to spare? Yes. Even in cities like Miami and Dallas where people are notoriously known for driving in the upper double digits above the posted speed limit I had no problem negotiating traffic. The only real world shortcoming of this bike suffered from is it is so low to the ground that any truly aggressive riding in areas like The Tail of the Dragon had to be curtailed. Any discomfort in the saddle was easily handled with a motorcycle gel pad.
Last and most certainly not least, how does the Phantom handle with a passenger on the pillion seat? This bike is perfect for bar hopping with a babe on the back but beyond that you’re going to have to either leave your honey at home or get a bigger bike. The pillion seat is literally only a half an inch wider and thicker than my hand, so it’s going to get really uncomfortable after about an hour of riding. But that’s nothing that a thicker seat can’t take care of. The point is this: I’ve taken Jay on many rides. She’s a good bit lighter than my camping gear, so she had no effect on the handling or performance.
I’m I trying to convince you to buy a Phantom? Am I trying to convince you that a Phantom is better than any other cruiser? No. There are plenty metric and American made motorcycles out there that are better than a Phantom. The Harley Davidson Road Glide, Indian Roadmaster, Kawasaki Voyager, and Honda Goldwing just to name a few are designed to handle the kind of heavy duty, long distance traveling I’ve done. The only thing that I want to convince you into understanding that you can do more with less, and regardless of your male ego this bike can and will get the job done. At the end of the day I garnered more respect and admiration for doing what I did on a medium-sized cruiser than if I had accomplished the same cross country journey on any of the aforementioned full dresser cruisers. At the end of the day the only person you have to impress is yourself.